Congregational Churches

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by kalawine, Dec 7, 2008.

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  1. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    Today I am a sold out Prebyterian (PCA) but over the years I have been involved in many different kinds of churches, every one until now was "congregational". I hope that our Independents and SBC'ers will understand that this isn't a personal attack on anyone but today I have a problem with Congregational churches in general. Let me explain:
    It would be very simple to point out that the Kingdom of God is not a democracy and that is probably a worn out phrase. But my experience has been that when a church is congregational in it's government either one of two things happen. (1) You have a pastor with a group of yes-men "deacons" (elders) and with this unbridled power the pastor is tempted to be abusive with that power. As a matter of fact, in my experience they have all ultimately abused their power, some to a lesser, some to a greater degree. (2) You wind up with a wimpy pastor who is a yes-man to his deacons and they become tyrants, going through pastors like Carter through liver pills. In either instance there is no one for the pastor or the deacons (elders) to answer to. In MHO this is why so many Baptists churches are grasping so hard to force their people to adopt the Baptist Confession. You have to have some point of authority. In our case however (the PCA... not that we're perfect by any means) if someone gets crazy, just one phone call away is a greater authority... under God but over the local Church.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
  2. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Or could it simply be that some Baptist churches are adopting the 1689 London Baptist Confession because it accurately reflects the doctrinal position of the church? I think you need to consider this before thinking the worst about Baptist churches who are considering confessionalism.
     
  3. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I have always said that congregational churches run the risk of having non spiritual people making spiritual decisions.

    I do not agree with your yes men analogy, but I do agree that congregational churches are a bad idea.
     
  4. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Asking a Presbyterian what they think about congregationalism is actually quite funny. It's like asking a lion what he thinks about vegetarianism. Bottom line, it's preaching to the choir.
     
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Hmm, let's ask the PCUSA about the merits of Presbyterianism.
     
  6. Hawaiian Puritan

    Hawaiian Puritan Puritan Board Freshman


    I was also going to mention the Episcopal Church as an example of when you have a spritually corrupt hierarchy, you corrupt the entire church. Of course in PCUSA we have similar problems, although at least we aren't set up as an aristocracy where the bishop has pretty much plenary power and there are no checks and balances.
     
  7. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    As has already been pointed out, the OP makes some faulty assumptions. The first is that all independent churches claim to be "democracies." The second is that all resemble the "good ole boy" churches that he may be familiar with in Mississippi. The OP did a bang up job of describing the failures of many of the latter, but it really doesn't have anything to do with congregationalism/independency. One could just as easily point to the Episcopal church and exclaim "See, that's what you get with connectional chuch government!"

    -----Added 12/7/2008 at 07:04:36 EST-----

    :amen: It's far more appropriate to compare the SBC to the PCUSA, not the PCA.
     
  8. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Before this goes too far and we develop a bunker mentality; even the best form of church government is subject to corruption, abuse and apathy. That said, there is a reasonable defense of congregationalism and hierarchical church government that accentuates the strengths of both without creating caricatures of the other.
     
  9. Ivan

    Ivan Pastor

    How so?
     
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I really think the NT is not very clear on all this.
     
  11. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Because those who founded the PCA were incapable of reforming the PCUS (the old Southern Presbyterian church which later merged with the northern church to become today's PCUSA) and founded what became the PCA in 1973. I submit the necessity of the secession was due in part to their polity, which made the reform of the PCUS basically impossible once the liberals got the upper hand. Recently we have even seen Old School Presbyterians wonder how long they can remain in today's PCA before they will have to jump ship over egalitarianism etc. and the denomination is only 35 years old!

    The SBC was founded in 1845 and the PCUS in 1861. In the SBC you have had the Conservative Resurgence since 1979 that put the SBC on a much firmer footing doctrinally. Prior to that it seemed headed in the same direction that the mainlines were. Are there problems in the SBC? No doubt. Might there come a day in which a remnant might have to leave the SBC over doctrinal issues. Perhaps, but I pray that day never comes. But whatever the failures of Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines et. al, I'll take them any day over the leaders of the PCUSA, whose apostasy is widely documented. On some issues (not just baptism) in my opinion leaders in the SBC have tended to take stronger stands than many leaders in the PCA.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
  12. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    This assumes that congregational churches are rank democracies. Not all are. Many are, apart from the interaction of churches above the local level, not much different than presbyterian in terms of elder leadership.
     
  13. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Correct. We are set up this way. The elders maintain spiritual oversight of the church and the membership cannot make a motion or vote against that oversight. But to prevent despotic leadership, the elders cannot change the church constitution or doctrinal statement without bringing such changes to the membership for a vote.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
  14. uberkermit

    uberkermit Puritan Board Freshman


    Surely this is not confined to congregational churches!
     
  15. Hippo

    Hippo Puritan Board Junior

    I do have a big problem with Congregational Churches but that does not stop me refusing to go shopping with the wife in the Whitgift centre in Croydon beacuse Archbishop Whitgift executed John Barrow. I am so ecumenical at times it hurts.
     
  16. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    Precisely - nor the other concern mentioned in the OP. I have seen my fair share of PCA churches in which the pastor is king and the elders his minions.
     
  17. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    You may find helpful this historical summary of the formation of the PCA:
    Keyes' Brief History

    I don't think presbyterian polity is a hinderance to reform, but rather, probably allows more orderly means to redress grievances and appeal than other systems.

    The reason for formation of the denomination has more to do with the presbyterian notion of needing a "continuing church." My understanding is the OPC has had a similar understanding.

    Theological drift represents a real threat to every church in every generation. I think the PCA is particularly aware of this.

    There may be some individual churches that fall without restoration toward theological liberalism and will leave the accountability of the system, but I really don't sense any real desire for schism, nor do I sense any general desire to compromise the standards.

    In reformed theology, the unity of the church must be based on doctrinal agreement. In Presbyterian polity, churches are related in more than a nominal way to one another and yet under authority and "grass roots" at the same time.
     
  18. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I was thinking pure democracy style churches. In those churches you can easily have numerous people who are non Christians or barely Christian making extremely spiritual decisions.

    I do realize that every man is tainted with sin and can make a non spiritual decision. It just seems less likely that the elders of a church are going to be non-Christians.
     
  19. uberkermit

    uberkermit Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, but even in Presbyterian churches, the power does not vest solely in the leadership of the church, but, as Hodge would say, "The people have a right to a substantive part in the government of the Church."

    Tell me, how is it that Presbyterian denominations go liberal? I don't mean in general terms (I believe that Revelation 1-3 can shed some light on this), but more specifically. And what is the end result of that liberalism? Is it not the case that there can be many ruling and teaching elders in a presbytery or synod who even deny the gospel?
     
  20. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    I do not doubt that is true and I do respect that. But I still wonder if in some cases I could be right too.
     
  21. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I suppose if you look hard enough you can find a confessional Baptist church who has problems. My assessment of you OP is that you are looking for problems within confessional Baptist churches. When you use the phrase, "so many churches" your making a sweeping generality. Most confessional Baptist churches are not a strict democracy. That has already been brought out in this thread.
     
  22. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    Touché! A very good critique of my OP! I'll have to rethink some of these things. I guess that'll teach me to rely on personal experiences.
     
  23. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    But surely if we should be against something or not should depend on what the bible has to say on that subject, not on speculating about all the possible things that could go wrong with a particular situation.
     
  24. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, I was too hasty with this thread. I was thinking out loud about my personal experiences. Believe me... Dr. James White had more to do with my personal acceptance of Calvinism than anyone else. I respect Reformed Baptists and almost became one at one point. I guess I've just had some bad experiences in churches with no one to answer to.
    I've been watching our government (local church) in action on some things recently and it's new to me. The structure and it's effectiveness (at least in our congregation) has been strikingly impressive to me. With these very things fresh in my mind after church services today and then after reading the distress of James "Blueridge" Farley... well, I wondered if his pastor answers to anyone. And having been a Baptist most of my life I have seen many mini popes in my 47 years. I didn't mean it against the confession nor against anyone who holds to the confession. I just believe that there has to be accountability to more than just a creed.
     
  25. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    My counsel to you is not to draw conclusions from anecdotal accounts, whether they be first or second hand. We tend to look at things through the prism we're currently holding. There is a lot we don't know about brother James' situation. We know he is distressed and we should be praying for him. But we don't know the heart of his pastor or what lead up to this sermon that impacted brother James the way it did.
     
  26. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    Agreed
     
  27. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    There may be some presbyteries who have elders that deny the gospel, but every church has young Christians who cannot explain the basics.
     
  28. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    This amazing; you think?! Are you sure? What with that pretzel in your brain....
    :lol:
     
  29. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    Even in a properly functioning congregational church, wouldn't it be the pastor or more mature members of the church making decisions?

    If the church is not being ruled well by the pastor than yes there might be problems, but these potential problems do not show any flaw in the congregational system, as potential problems are there even under the presbyterian system.
     
  30. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Thank you brother. Personal experiences can cut both ways. In many cases Baptists and others think PCUSA when they hear Presbyterian, not being aware of the PCA, OPC, etc.
     
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